Could you be a victim? Romance fraud cost Northamptonshire victims £1.1million in 2020
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People in Northamptonshire lost £1.1million to romance fraud in 2020 with an average loss of £11,500 per victim.
Romance fraud, or dating fraud, occurs when you think you’ve met the perfect partner online but they are using a fake profile to form a relationship with you. They gain your trust over a number of weeks or months and have you believe you are in a loving and caring relationship. However, the criminal’s end goal is only ever to get your money or personal information.
Fraudsters spend a lot of time, months in many cases, to build up a relationship and get the victim to trust them. 57% of all victims are aged between 40-60 and all manner of websites and apps are targeted including Facebook, Instagram, Google Hangouts, WhatsApp, Plenty of Fish, Tinder and Match.
Already in 2021, figures show a 20% increase year on year, and police officers are aware that this is just the tip of the iceberg as many victims do not report the crime due to embarrassment.
Confessions of a fraudster (from the Action Fraud website) “People like to live in fairy tales, they say it won’t happen to me. I make sure all my conversations are bespoke. I will show insecurity myself about trusting people and this helps allude to them that I’m genuine.”
PC Neil Mackenzie, said: Fraudsters often purport to be a professional person, a doctor, or in the military overseas.
“Once the fraudsters are confident that you have enough sympathy and desire for them, they will tell you about a problem they are experiencing and ask you to help out by sending money. For example, they’ve arranged to visit you but need money to pay travel or visa costs, or they’ve paid for a plane ticket which is then stolen.
“It could also be that a family member or someone else they are responsible for is ill and they need money for medical treatment.
“Once you send them money, the fraudsters will keep coming back with more reasons to send them money, or ask you to use your bank account to transfer money for them - this is money laundering.”
Money will be requested by the fraudsters in all manner of ways including cash, bank transfer or cryptocurrency.
PC Mackenzie, added: “The financial loss is difficult to overcome however it’s the emotional impact on victims that can be devastating as they end up loving the person who has scammed them. We want to do all we can to raise awareness of this heartless crime to prevent people from falling for it.”
Tell-tale signs your online date may be a fraudster:
They want to communicate with you through instant messaging and texts, rather than through the dating website or chat room where you met, as other platforms are encrypted and difficult to trace
They ask you lots of questions about yourself, but don’t tell you much about themselves, you may even only have a first name
They don’t answer basic questions about where they live and work
Their profile picture is too perfect – for example they look like an actor or Miss World titleholder, they cannot send a live image with thumbs up, or waving
They CANNOT talk to you, video calls are silent, because it’s a loop stolen from a genuine site
They talk about their financial difficulties to sow a seed before asking for money
Don’t let your heart rule your head
Trust your instincts - if you think something feels wrong, it probably is
Choose a site that will protect your anonymity until you choose to reveal personal information and that will enforce its policies against inappropriate use
Do not post personal information, such as phone numbers, on dating sites
Never send money or give credit card or online account details to anyone you don’t know and trust
Wait until you feel comfortable with an individual before telling them things like your phone number, place of work or address
Be extremely wary about removing clothes or doing other things in front of your webcam that could be used against you - even if you think you know the other party
Use a dating site that offers the ability to email prospective dates using a service that conceals both parties’ true email addresses
Set up a separate email account that does not use your real name
Pick a username that does not include any personal information.
Finally, meet for the first few times in a safe place with plenty of people around, and tell a family member or friend where you are
If you think you have been a victim of fraud you should report it to Action Fraud, the UK’s national fraud reporting centre by calling 0300 123 20 40 or by visiting www.actionfraud.police.uk.